Duterte to courts: Don’t stand in the way of vaping ban

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    PRESIDENT Duterte on Wednesday night warned courts against issuing temporary restraining orders (TROs) to halt his order against the importation and use of vaping devices in public places.

    Speaking during the 80th anniversary of the Department of National Defense, Duterte clarified that his order does not mean seizing e-cigarette or vaping devices but just to “hold the importations.”

    “I’m asking the judiciary, any judge… asking myself to the Supreme Court, I’m here having a hard time controlling crime and you know, all sorts of toxic materials being imbibed by the young. And there are some importations now, and if they are not allowed, they go to the judges,” Duterte said.

    “Judges, I know that you can determine whether a vaping is good or not… do not interfere in this. Judges, I warn you, do not issue restraining orders to the Customs, to the Coast Guard. I will not obey your order because of the peculiar situation this country finds,” he added.

    The President reiterated his order banning the use of vaping devices in public throughout the country due to the nicotine and other toxic materials used in e-cigarettes.

    Duterte had directed the military to help the police implement the ban, including arresting those who would refuse to follow the ban on public use of vaping. He said those who want to continue vaping may do so in their homes but risk contaminating one’s family, especially the children, with toxins from the smoke of the e-cigarettes.

    “The order will come. Do not worry. Just stop it. And the police, do your work. The Armed Forces, do your work. I will take full responsibility alone. Nobody else. Ako lang (Just me).

    I will accept the… You are protected because I’m ordering you a legal order preventing injury to the Filipino children,” he said.

    The President said there is an existing law that that prohibits the distribution of toxic materials in public places, which is the basis for the ban on vaping in public.

    The Department of Health had been calling for the ban of vaping, emphasizing it is not good for one’s health contrary to the claims of e-cigarette advocates that is a healthier alternative to tobacco.

    The DOH confirmed last week the first case of e-cigarette or vape-associated lung injury that affected a 16-year-old girl from Visayas. The girl had reportedly been using a combination of e-cigarettes and regular cigarette for the past six months.

    IBP WEIGHS IN

    Any citizen can go to courts to challenge Duterte’s verbal order to ban vaping in the country, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines said.

    IBP national president Domingo Egon Cayosa said the courts still hold the power to hear any petitions challenging the legality or constitutionality of Duterte’s verbal order. It will be recalled that Duterte warned the judiciary against standing in the way of his order banning the use and importation of vapes or e-cigarettes.

    “I’m sure the President as a lawyer knows that. The fact that he has articulated his position does not hinder our courts from performing their constitutional duties,” Cayosa said.

    “It is the legislative branch not the executive branch that makes an act criminal. If any aggrieved party feels that the President has acted beyond his powers, he can go to the judicial branch either the regional trial courts or the Supreme Court to question the validity, legality of constitutionality if the act. At the end of the day, any citizen who feels aggrieved by the order can actually go to the court to challenge the order,” he added.

    Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Duterte needs to issue an executive order to formalize his order.

    “Verbal order of PRRD (President Duterte) should be really formalized in the form of (an) EO para may effect naman (for it to be in effect),” Lacson said. He, however, added an EO can be reversed by the Supreme Court through a TRO.

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III said banning the use of vapes or e-cigarettes in public places may need the enactment of a law.

    “It may need an ordinance to ban it in a specific place or a law nationwide coverage. Right now it is debatable if an executive order will suffice,” Sotto said in a text message to reporters.

    Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Office of the President will soon issue a new executive order covering all types of vaping.

    “The existing Executive Order prohibiting smoking in public places may apply to vaping only insofar as such vaping makes use of any tobacco derivative and produces smoke in the process. In any event, I have been informed that the Office of the President will issue a new Executive Prder covering all types of vaping,” Guevarra said.

    PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa said people caught vaping in public will have to be released after their arrest because there is no punitive action that can be taken against them.

    “I told them (policemen) to arrest them, put them on the blotter and then release them,” Gamboa told a press conference in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

    Gamboa said people engaged in vaping in public can be arrested by virtue of Executive Order 26 which calls for the establishment of smoke-free environment in public and enclosed places.

    EO 26, issued by President Duterte in May 2017, says the violation of order shall be punishable under Republic Act 9211 (an act regulating the packing, use, sale distribution and advertisement of tobacco products) and applicable laws.

    “Yes, we can still arrest but we cannot punish. Arrest is not punishment remember,” said Gamboa.

    MMDA Chairman Danilo Lim also weighed in, saying: “I support the regulation of vaping for the sake of the general public.”

    He said the MMDA will help in promoting anti-smoking programs to achieve smoke-free environments.

    Groups representing more than 200,000 vapers in the Philippines asked Duterte to regulate, not ban, the use of electronic cigarettes which are scientifically found to be 95 percent less harmful than combustible cigarettes.

    The Philippine E-cigarette Industry Association (PECIA), the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA), The Vapers Alliance and the Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines (NCUP) said the President was ill-advised when he announced a ban on the use and importation of vapes (e-cigarettes).

    “A ban on vaping will only worsen the smoking situation in the Philippines,” CAPHRA said in a statement.

    “As an anti-smoker, it is as if the President is encouraging vapers to go back to smoking which is ironic. The scientific evidence that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful was ignored and disregarded,” said Clarisse Virgino, a CAPHRA Philippine representative.

    PECIA, which has been pushing for the regulation of e-cigarette since 2013, said regulation is the best way to address concerns on e-cigarettes. “Although not risk-free, e-cigarettes are still much better alternatives to cigarettes. The planned executive order of the President should regulate the manufacture, sale and use of e-cigarettes.

    Vapers Alliance said: “Reckless driving, and driving while under the influence of alcohol is deadly. Should we ban cars and alcohol? We cannot ban vaping simply because other people are not following the rules.”

    The Department of Health earlier said about 1 million Filipinos use e-cigarettes.

    The vaping groups said the problem stemmed from government’s failure to regulate the e-cigarette industry and not from the alleged unknown chemicals contained in electronic nicotine delivery systems.

    “Nicotine is not the problem, it’s the smoke. Sadly, our President has been grossly misinformed on the dangers of nicotine. He’s been given bad advice. In fact, nicotine helps smokers quit. It’s even the main ingredient of nicotine replacement therapies. We thought the Psresident wants smokers to quit,” NUCP said. – With Victor Reyes, Raymond Africa, Ashzel Hachero and Rod Lagusad